Timeline, NHS support, costs and risks - Leeds United's Parklife proposal and Elland Road plans explained

Leeds United have changed tack with regards to their Elland Road stadium and proposed city centre training ground.

Tuesday, 15th June 2021, 5:31 pm
Updated Tuesday, 15th June 2021, 5:34 pm
NEW PROPOSAL - Leeds United have proposed that instead of buying the Matthew Murray site to build a new training ground, the planned Parklife initiative moves to the site from Fullerton Park. Pic: Leeds Council.

A report from the director of city development to Leeds Council's executive board has revealed the latest on the Fullerton Park Parklife scheme and Leeds United s plans for the Matthew Murray High School site and their revised ambition for a 55,000 seater Elland Road stadium.

Here's what you need to know.

The timeline

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In October 2017 the executive board agreed the principle of the council formally entering into one-to-one negotiations with Leeds United for the development of a new training ground and academy at the former Matthew Murray High School site.

The council's executive board then agreed to shortlisting of four Parklife sites in September 2019 - Fullerton Park (Elland Road), Woodhall Pitches (Calverley), Green Park (Thorpe Park) and Boddington (Weetwood – Led by University of Leeds). Fullerton Park secured planning approval and tenders for pricing of the works were being prepared.

At the same time they approved the draft Heads of Terms developed and agreed between both parties for the Matthew Murray site, to allow Leeds United to bring forward their training ground proposals.

Following their 2020 promotion to the Premier League and the increased investment from the San Francisco 49ers, Leeds reviewed their stadium development ambitions and decided 55,000 and not 50,000 was possible. The footprint of the 5,000 increase would require the relocation of the Parklife initiative to another area within Fullerton Park, or alternatively the former Matthew Murray High School site.

The council were approached by Leeds early in the New Year to undertake a review of the Parklife layout to see if the scheme could be re-sited within Fullerton Park, but to sit outside

of the previously agreed expansion line for the stadium. The Parklife scheme until this point had been developed in agreement with the club, up to the edge of the Fullerton Park site

but up to 30m inside the stadium expansion line.

Taking account of the stadium expansion options, the remaining area of land at Fullerton Park (excluding the leased Ice Rink) underwent a review, at the club’s request, to ascertain

whether the site could accommodate the approved Park and Ride spaces, the expanded stadium and a relocated and redesigned Parklife scheme.

After collectively reviewing the layout options within the remainder of the Fullerton site it became clear there was insufficient space for all of the above, so Leeds asked the council to explore the potential option for the former Matthew Murray site to become the Parklife hub for South Leeds, on the basis that they would meet any costs incurred in redeveloping a Parklife scheme up to the stage of the current scheme.

Conclusions and support

The report to the executive board concludes that the most beneficial option, from the point of view of potential facilities on offer and from an operational stand point, is to use the Matthew Murray site for Parklife. That does mean the council miss out on the financial benefit of selling the site to Leeds United for their training ground, but the sale of some Fullerton Park land to Leeds offsets that somewhat.

The Football Foundation and the NHS, who will occupy part of the Parklife site, and council members are supportive of this approach. Leeds United have agreed to cover the cost of design of the newly proposed scheme [estimated at £325k] in terms of fees, planning and surveys.

Leeds' proposal contributes to the council's ambition to be an efficient, enterprising and healthy organisation, their health and wellbeing targets, their child-friendly city aims and their responsibilities to promoting opportunities for older people and local communities.

What does the report recommend?

The report recommendations are that the progress made with the Fullerton Park Parklife scheme is noted but that the principle of moving it to the former Matthew Murray site is approved subject to Leeds United meeting the additional design costs. It also recommends that the proposed move would offer the chance to increase the facilities at Parklife and the space taken up by the NHS. The support of the Football Foundation, the main funder for Parklife, and the NHS is to be noted, along with the loss of the potential income from the sale of land to Leeds United, partly offset by the sale of Fullerton Park land for the stadium expansion.

Finally, it recommends that council officers work in partnership with Leeds United on a revised masterplan for the Elland Road Stadium and Fullerton Park area and to bring back

draft proposals to a future executive board in readiness for public consultation.

Why is the proposal being put forward?

Parklife is a national programme funded by the Football Association (FA), the Premier League, Department for Culture Media and Sport, Sport England and the Football

Foundation aimed at introducing all-weather facilities available all year round. Parklife provides funding through the FA of 60 per cent towards the costs of

developing football hubs each comprising a minimum of two artificial grass pitches with associated changing facilities and parking.

A shortfall of 13 additional full size all-weather pitches across Leeds was identified and the report suggests the Parklife scheme will 'go a long way' to addressing that shortfall.

What will Parklife at Fullerton look like?

It would consist of one full sized all-weather pitch, one 9v9 all-weather pitch, two 5-a-side all-weather pitches, an NHS facility including treatment rooms and pharmacy, a gym, changing rooms and café facility and car parking.

Positive impact

The report suggests that following the confirmation from the NHS and the Football Foundation that they are supportive of the Matthew Murray site it will ensure the whole Parklife Programme across the city (including Woodhall and Green Park) is deliverable and sustainable in Leeds. Through the delivery of the four full sized all-weather pitches, the 13 pitch shortfall identified in the draft Playing Pitch Strategy has been fully addressed in Leeds.

Sitting in the heart of the local community at the Matthew Murray site, Parklife would be a 'world class' sporting facility on the doorstep of Ingram Road Primary School, it would increase the health provision facilities in the local area and reduce the impact of the Parklife proposal on the existing Park and Ride and Leeds' proposed stadium expansion.

Delay

The change of site from a Parklife point of view will be that the facility at Matthew Murray will be delayed by one year as a consequence of needing to undertake design development and secure planning approval on the new site.

The remaining sites at Woodhall and Green Park are slated for September 2022 completion, maintaining the Football Foundation requirement to have two sites operational for the formal launch of Parklife in Leeds.

Consultation

Consultation has taken place with the leader of the council and executive member for infrastructure and climate, along with councillors for the impacted local wards, who were keen to stress that issues around match-day parking need to be addressed in advance of further expansions that may impact local residents.

The Football Foundation and NHS have approved the proposals and early discussions with planning have taken place to identify issues or challenges that will need to be overcome as part of the design as it develops.

Considerations will need to be given to environmental considerations such as noise and lighting overspill, travel planning and highways, design quality standards and climate

emergency. The proposals for Park Life on the Matthew Murray site will be subject to a full planning application.

Risks

The report says the key risks revolve around any unknown ground condition issues at the Matthew Murray site, which will be surveyed as early as possible.

Timetable

If the executive board approves the site change next week, design development will take place between then and November 2021 before a planning submission in December and potential approval in February 2022.

That would allow the tendering of works between March and May next year and an on-site start in July or August 2022, with completion in August 2023.